How Cowleys are transforming Portsmouth training, a glimmer of hope for John Marquis' red card appeal and the way Blues are set to deal with having no strikers - your questions answered

You’ve been asking your questions over the big Pompey talking points – and Blues writer Jordan Cross has brought some insight to the burning issues.

Monday, 29th March 2021, 1:16 pm
Updated Monday, 29th March 2021, 1:21 pm

If John Marquis’ ban is upheld and Pompey don’t have any strikers, what are we going to do for the next three games?

Mark Palmer, via email

Hi Mark, I think the answer to your question is essentially simple enough: Pompey are going to have to play without a recognised senior striker.

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Everyone’s keeping their fingers crossed over John Marquis’ appeal after his dismissal at Shrewsbury on Saturday, but I think it’s fair to say Danny Cowley has to be prepared for being without him for three games.

With Jordy Hiwula facing ‘four to six weeks’ out with an ankle injury and Ellis Harrison out for the season with a knee issue, that leaves Pompey without an established front man.

Alfie Stanley is an untried option, with the 20-year-old making the bench on four occasions, in addition to two EFL Trophy starts.

Cowley has praised his work in training since arriving with his finishing catching the eye, but it’s unlikely he’ll be thrown in at a crucial moment in the season.

The Cowleys are making their marks at Pompey. (Photo by Daniel Chesterton/phcimages.com)

Ryan Williams was thrown forward through Saturday’s finale at Shrewsbury and Cowley is clearly a big fan of the Aussie, while, Marcus Harness has rediscovered his goalscoring former with two goals in two.

The winger has been used in advanced positions this season, but perhaps the most likely route to travel will be using Ronan Curtis up front.

Curtis was switched to a striking role by Cowley against Ipswich in the second half and has publicly stated to The News he is more than comfortable in that position, and, in fact, that was where he played a lot before arriving in England.

It seems the Republic of Ireland man wants to operate there in the longer term, and that is the option which makes most sense for Pompey currently, with a 4-2-3-1 formation utilised at New Meadow.

Has Marquis got a chance of winning his appeal? It doesn’t look too good if Jack Whatmough didn’t get his red card rescinded.

John Porter

If you look at the fact Whatmough’s appeal for his red card against Lincoln was turned down, I agree it doesn’t look too hopeful for Marquis - but there are one or two glimmers of hope for the striker.

Marquis spoke of his hope an appeal will be lodged after his challenge on Harry Chapman on Saturday, with Cowley immediately confirming that is the avenue the club are going down.

It’s clear the striker was dismissed by referee Ben Speedie with the official deeming the tackle serious foul play.

The FA’s exact wording on that matter is: ‘A tackle or challenge that endangers the safety of an opponent or uses excessive force or brutality must be sanctioned as serious foul play. Any player who lunges at an opponent in challenging for the ball from the front, from the side or from behind using one or both legs, with excessive force or endangers the safety of an opponent is guilty of serious foul play.’

Breaking down Marquis’ challenge, he’s gone in with one leg at a fairly low trajectory after a loose touch and won the ball, with his momentum taking Chapman off the ground.

The argument, in all likelihood, will centre on whether the tackle was fairly deemed ‘excessive force’ or endangering ‘the safety of an opponent’.

There, of course, is the recent case of Whatmough’s red card which is making many fans pessimistic over the chances of a successful appeal.

Many felt the defender’s challenge on Jorge Grant was harsh after winning the ball, while others pointed to the application of the serious foul play rule today making a dismissal inevitable.

Interestingly, however, the panel was not unanimous when upholding that decision from ref Sam Purkiss, with some support for overturning the red card.

So perhaps there’s not such a clear precedent set from that incident, with it more underlining Marquis is at the mercy of the panel when they convene.

Ultimately, however, when looking at all the evidence at our disposal it feels, from this observer’s position, the tackle was somewhere between a yellow and a red - and that won’t be enough to get it overturned.

What are the Cowleys doing that is so different from what was happening at Pompey before?

Luke Jones

There’s no doubt the Cowleys have been a breath of fresh air since succeeding Kenny Jackett.

The first thing they’ve been able to do is inject some confidence back into the team, which is something we’ve seen happen many, many times from a managerial change.

The public messages coming down from the duo have been very impressive, detailed and won acclaim - and quite rightly so.

Some simple but effective tactics have been employed such as going out of their way to talk up the talent of individuals - see particularly John Marquis, Ronan Curtis, Ryan Williams, Ben Close and Michael Jacobs.

It’s a little reminiscent of when Harry Redknapp used to praise players to the media or very publicly in the presence of the individual. You could see how it lifted the likes of Linvoy Primus, Arjan De Zeeuw and Benjani when he did so, to name a few.

But it’s also clear how applying some simple changes to the team’s approach and having a defined philosophy is reaping early dividends.

The Cowleys like to press high, counter quickly, pass with pace and implement very clear patterns of play.

That’s been seen in the way they are playing out from Craig MacGillivray and instilling the ‘wide triangles’ which many have seen the duo talk about in YouTube videos.

Pompey players have praised the quality of training since new management team’s arrivals and the thoroughness of that work.

For some context of just how thorough that is, the Cowleys have utilised their time out of the game by animating 700 drills which they now can show the squad before their sessions - and then reinforce via iPads out on the grass when necessary.

The scaffold tower at the training ground to record sessions has been noted, too, with, and an insight into the thoroughness of the pair’s work.

But perhaps their desire to assess individual strengths and weaknesses and reappraise how to get the best from players shouldn’t be overlooked.

A number of players, such as John Marquis, have made reference to it of late and it’s clear it’s invigorated the dressing room.

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